10 Mar 2022

Covid-19 update: 21,015 new community cases, 773 people in hospital, 16 in ICU

5:50 pm on 10 March 2022

The daily number of new community cases has dropped slightly today to 21,015 cases, but the number of people in hospital with the coronavirus continues to soar, rising to 773 today.

Coronavirus disease COVID-19 outbreak Microscopic view of a infectious virus Red Virus cell 3D Rendering

Photo: 123rf.com

While the Ministry of Health initally said there were 845 people in hospital, it revised that number this afternoon to 773.

There are 16 people are in intensive care. There was also one new death reported today.

There are now more people in hospital with Covid-19 than at any other point over the past two years, the Ministry said.

"DHBs have been planning and preparing for managing Covid-19 and the higher number of cases in the community which are resulting in more people in hospital. Our hospitals and their dedicated teams are continuing to do what's needed to make sure everyone gets the treatment they need."

Today's numbers are down compared to yesterday's 22,454 and 742 hospitalisations, with a record of 19 cases in ICU.

The number of new cases in Auckland remains relatively stable at 7234 today, with the remaining cases in the Northland (689), Waikato (2016), Bay of Plenty (1392), Lakes (632), Hawke's Bay (700), MidCentral (653), Whanganui (156), Taranaki (524), Tairāwhiti (353), Wairarapa (170), Capital and Coast (1858), Hutt Valley (1103), Nelson Marlborough (449), Canterbury (2021), South Canterbury (109), Southern (918) and West Coast (26).

There were also 15 cases identified at the border today.

There have now been more than 300,000 cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, with the official total now at 306,919.

There were 8970 vaccine booster doses given yesterday, along with 282 first doses; 822 second doses; 42 third primary doses; 625 paediatric first doses and 295 paediatric second doses.

About 53 percent of 5-11 year olds are now vaccinated

Change in reporting deaths

Speaking at today's daily briefing, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the government will be changing how it reports Covid-19-related deaths from today.

Deaths will automatically be reported if the person died within 28 days of a positive test result, the same system many countries are using around the world, including in the UK.

The deaths will be broken into three categories:

* Where Covid-19 is the clear cause of death (to date there are 34 deaths in this category).

* Where a person is found to have had Covid-19 when they died but it was not the cause of death (there are 2 deaths so far in this category).

* When a person is known to have had Covid-19 when they died but their cause of death is not known (there are currently 48 deaths in this category).

With the new reporting, over the past two weeks there have been an additional nine deaths that have not yet been announced and the total number of Covid-19 deaths is therefore is 91.

"Each one of these deaths represents a person and a whānau and community that is grieving, so I want to just acknowledge that and pass on my condolences."

New Zealand's Covid-19 death rate remains very low compared to internationally, Dr Bloomfield said.

The latest death occurred at North Shore Hospital yesterday.

Omicron and Delta

Dr Bloomfield said since 23 February, 83 percent of results have been confirmed via RAT. Of today's cases, 97 percent were confirmed via RAT.

"Nationally, since the start of the year, 21 percent of people hospitalised who were genome sequenced had Delta - 79 percent had Omicron."

Delta was last identified in sequencing in mid-February.

"If you look at the pattern of all sequencing in all cases ... we have seen a growing in the proportion that are that BA2 variant (of Omicron)."

There are no current Delta cases in hospital, Dr Bloomfield said.

Parents have had challenges reporting RAT test results for children and other dependents, he said.

Capacity in the reporting hotline has been increased. From tomorrow, they can also report them online from tomorrow, Dr Bloomfield said.

He thanked those reporting RAT results online.

As for self-reporting RAT results, he said it was hard to know how many people were testing and not reporting results.

"What we are intending to do here, assuming about the same proportion of people will over time record their result, we'll look at the trend of the positivity result and that will give us an indication if the number of cases is going up or going down."

Use of the Pfizer vaccine as a booster for 16 and 17-year-olds is currently before MedSafe, Bloomfield said.

Meanwhile, case numbers at Auckland hospitals are higher than was expected - even in worst-case scenarios - with nearly half of children at Middlemore's emergency department testing positive.

It has meant large parts of ordinary care being put on hold to help the health system cope, along with new rules this week which allow health workers to continue to work on Covid wards while infected.

The government also announced a reduction in isolation times yesterday - to seven days across the board - to help keep sectors operational.

Infection in Auckland does appear to be plateauing, signalling a peak after which they can be expected to drop significantly, but there have been warnings of a second peak as other regions experience their own surge.

As New Zealand looks ahead to coming back down the Omicron mountain, attention increasingly turns to the effects of Long Covid.